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Boost for disused rail route path
The Trailway cuts through one of the hilliest parts of Dorset
The Trailway cuts through one of the hilliest parts of Dorset

The route of a disused railway is to be turned into a 10 mile (16km) traffic-free path, accessible to the public.

The Bridport Trailway will run on the former railway branch line from Maiden Newton to Bridport.

The plans have just received £5,000 from the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Fund, which supports projects that bring sustainable benefits to local communities.

Clearance work on the first part of the route is due to start in December.

Members of the Maiden Newton running club present Peter Henshaw with a cheque
Members of the Maiden Newton running club support the project

Funding boost

The idea of turning the route into a path have been talked about for over 15 years, but the £5,000 grant, along with a donation of £500 from a local running club, has helped push the project forward.

Club member Phil England, from Maiden Newton Runners, said: "The Trailway Path would open up a safe route for everyone to make the most of the scenery and help connect villages in the area."

The Trailway project is lead by Sustrans, - a national charity which works to find sustainable transport for the benefit of health and the environment.

It is responsible for the National Cycle Network - 12,000 miles of cycle track across the UK.

All weather surfaces

Co-ordinating the Bridport Trailway project is Peter Henshaw.

Currently, "80%" of the route is physically accessible but Peter says the project is more than just "closing the gaps":

"At the moment it's possible to walk all the way from Toller Porcorum through to Loders, but some sections are on private land, and also it's very muddy.

"We want to make the surfaces 'all weather', and suitable for wheelchair users too."

The route is 10 miles (16km) long
The route is 10 miles (16km) long

Securing access

The project needs to raise a further £5,000, which will go towards securing parts of the route that are on privately-owned land.

Peter said: "When the line closed, the track bed was sold off in pieces to local landowners nearby, so now we are talking to those landowners about getting access back.

"We only have 12 or 13 landowners to negotiate with so that's not too bad - I know the North Dorset Trailway project had that many landowners in just one small section."

"The money we raise will go to buying back the land, or, in some cases, arranging a lease on it."

The route will be developed in short sections, with a two mile stretch between Toller Porcorum and Powerstock being the first to open by Spring 2010, with a further extension back to Maiden Newton coming after.

This will link up with a short 0.5 mile (0.8km) stretch already in place near Maiden Newton station, where the route begins.

Turning the route into a Trailway has been talked about for 15 years
Turning the route into a Trailway has been talked about for 15 years

"A nice project to do"

Peter estimates the project could take several years to complete and fundraising is continuing.

He said: "But it's a nice project to do. There are no rivers to work around, and all the original embankments and railway cuttings are all there, so there will be a clear a sense of the path's railway heritage as you go along it.

"I'm passionate about cycling and the Trailway will be great for that.

"But I hope it will be well used by local people.

"Yes it's good for tourism but the hope is that locals can use it to help their day-to-day journeys."

"It's a beautiful part of Dorset. It's also a very hilly area but the path will provide better access [to the places on the route].

"And all the hard work has been done by the railway engineers when they built the line."

The Beeching axe

The Maiden Newton-Bridport branch line closed to railway services in 1975, with the track removed shortly after.

The line was one of the last casualties of the 'railway rationalisation' measures recommended in a report by government advisor Dr Beeching.

His 1965 study saw the closure of 5,000 miles of track and 2,000 stations across the country, and Dorset lost several lines.

Towns like Wimborne and Blandford saw their stations close when The Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway line was removed, and a train service between Weymouth and Portland was also closed.

Many of these disused routes today remain as dedicated traffic free paths for walkers and cyclists, such as the Castleman Trail to Wimborne, the Rodwell Trail from Weymouth to Portland, and the North Dorset Trailway on the route of the former Dorset and Somerset Railway.



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